NYT Blasts Pak ISI As International Terror-Masters Without Faulting Their CIA Masters

 The funeral of Saeed Jawad Hossini, 29, who was killed in a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul in January. Credit Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


TUNIS — PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI of Afghanistan has warned in several recent interviews that unless peace talks with Pakistan and the Taliban produce results in the next few months, his country may not survive 2016. Afghanistan is barely standing, he says, after the Taliban onslaught last year, which led to the highest casualties among civilians and security forces since 2001.

“How much worse will it get?” Mr. Ghani asked in a recent television interview. “It depends on how much regional cooperation we can secure, and how much international mediation and pressure can be exerted to create rules of the game between states.”

What he means is it depends on how much international pressure can be brought to bear on Pakistan to cease its aggression.

Critics of the Afghan leadership say it’s not Pakistan’s fault that its neighbor is falling apart. They point to the many internal failings of the Afghan government: political divisions, weak institutions, warlords and corruption.

But experts have found a lot of evidence that Pakistan facilitated the Taliban offensive. The United States and China have been asking Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to make peace, but Afghanistan argues that Islamabad has done nothing to rein in the Taliban, and if anything has encouraged it to raise the stakes in hopes of gaining influence in any power-sharing agreement.

This behavior is not just an issue for Afghanistan. Pakistan is intervening in a number of foreign conflicts. Its intelligence service has long acted as the manager of international mujahedeen forces, many of them Sunni extremists, and there is even speculation that it may have been involved in the rise of the Islamic State.

The latest Taliban offensive began in 2014. United States and NATO forces were winding down their operations in Afghanistan and preparing to withdraw when Pakistan decided, after years of prevarication, to clear Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from their sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan.

The operation was certainly a serious endeavor — Taliban bases, torture chambers and ammunition dumps were busted, town bazaars were razed and over one million civilians were displaced.

But the militants were tipped off early, and hundreds escaped, tribesmen and Taliban fighters said. Many fled over the border to Afghanistan, just at the vulnerable moment when Afghanistan was assuming responsibility for its own security. Ninety foreign fighters with their families arrived in Paktika Province that summer, to the alarm of Afghan officials.

Further along the border in Paktika Province, Taliban fighters occupied abandoned C.I.A. bases and outposts. A legislator from the region warned me that they would use the positions to project attacks deeper into Afghanistan and even up to Kabul. Some of the most devastating suicide bomb attacks occurred in that province in the months that followed.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Haqqani network, the most potent branch of the Taliban, moved from North Waziristan into the adjacent district of Kurram. From there it continues to enjoy safe haven and conduct its insurgency against American, international and Afghan targets.

Pakistan regards Afghanistan as its backyard. Determined not to let its archrival, India, gain influence there, and to ensure that Afghanistan remains in the Sunni Islamist camp, Pakistan has used the Taliban selectively, promoting those who further its agenda and cracking down on those who don’t. The same goes for Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters.

Even knowing this, it might come as a surprise that the region’s triumvirate of violent jihad is living openly in Pakistan.

First, there’s Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, and second in command of the Taliban. He moves freely around Pakistan, and has even visited the Pakistani intelligence headquarters of the Afghan campaign in Rawalpindi.

Then there is the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who has openly assembled meetings of his military and leadership council near the Pakistani town of Quetta. Since he came to power last year, the Taliban has mounted some of its most ambitious offensives into Afghanistan, overrunning the northern town of Kunduz, and pushing to seize control of the opium-rich province of Helmand.

Finally, Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan — one recent report placed him in the southwestern corner of Baluchistan. He has been working to establish training camps in southern Afghanistan. In October, it took United States Special Operations forces several days of fighting and airstrikes to clear those camps. American commanders say the group they were fighting was Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a new franchise announced by Mr. Zawahri that has claimed responsibility for the killings of bloggers and activists in Karachi and Bangladesh, among other attacks.

Pakistan denies harboring the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and points out that it, too, is a victim of terrorism. But many analysts have detailed how the military has nurtured Islamist militant groups as an instrument to suppress nationalist movements, in particular among the Pashtun minority, at home and abroad.

Perhaps most troubling, there are reports that Pakistan had a role in the rise of the Islamic State.

Ahead of Pakistan’s 2014 operation in North Waziristan, scores, even hundreds, of foreign fighters left the tribal areas to fight against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Tribesmen and Taliban members from the area say fighters traveled to Quetta, and then flew to Qatar. There they received new passports and passage to Turkey, from where they could cross into Syria. Others traveled overland along well-worn smuggling routes from Pakistan through Iran and Iraq.

The fighters arrived just in time to boost the sweeping offensive by ISIS into Iraq and the creation of the Islamic State in the summer of 2014.

If these accounts are correct, Pakistan was cooperating with Qatar, and perhaps others, to move international Sunni jihadists (including 300 Pakistanis) from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where they were no longer needed, to new battlefields in Syria. It is just another reminder of Pakistan’s central involvement in creating and managing violent jihadist groups, one Pakistani politician, who spoke on the condition of anonymity when talking about intelligence affairs, told me.

This has been going on for more than 30 years. In 1990, I shared a bus ride with young Chinese Uighurs, Muslims from China’s restive northwest, who had spent months training in Pakistani madrasas, including a brief foray into Afghanistan to get a taste of battle. They were returning home, furnished with brand-new Pakistani passports, a gift of citizenship often offered to those who join the jihad.

Years later, just after Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan, I interviewed a guerrilla commander from the disputed region of Kashmir who had spent 15 years on the Pakistani military payroll, traveling to train and assist insurgents in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

In 2012 I came across several cases where young clerics, fresh graduates from the Haqqania madrasa in Pakistan, returned to their home villages in Afghanistan, flush with cash, and set about running mosques and recruiting and organizing a band of Taliban followers.

I visited that madrasa in 2013. It is the alma mater of the Afghan Taliban, where many of the leaders of the movement were trained. The clerics there remained adamant in their support for the Taliban. “It is a political fact that one day the Taliban will take power,” Syed Yousuf Shah, the madrasa spokesman, told me. “We are experts on the Taliban,” he said, and a majority of the Afghan people “still support them.”

The madrasa, a longtime instrument of Pakistani intelligence, has been training people from the ethnic minorities of northern Afghanistan alongside its standard clientele of Pashtuns. The aim is still to win control of northern Afghanistan through these young graduates. From there they have their eyes on Central Asia and western China. Pakistani clerics are educating and radicalizing Chinese Uighurs as well, along with Central Asians from the former Soviet republics.

No one has held Pakistan to account for this behavior. Why would Pakistan give it up now?


Carlotta Gall is the author of “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014” and currently the North Africa correspondent for The New York Times.

Taliban Refuse the Bait—“Peace Talks” Crumbling

QCG Fails To Entice Taliban

Sartaz made a call for all groups to join the talks in the next session to be held in Kabul

Dunya News Report (Shahzad Badar)

Representatives of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) comprising China, Afghanistan, USA and Pakistan have met for the third time in Islamabad without the most important partner the Taliban who are to play a pivotal role in reestablishment of peace in the region.
Sartaz Aziz has made a call for all groups to join the talks in the next session to be held in Kabul by end of February.
 The Taliban so far are reluctant to join any peace talks initiated under the QCG umbrella as their demands for unfreezing their assets and removal of their names from the UN blacklist has not yet been taken care off. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has categorically refused to release any Taliban prisoners or accept their preconditions for the talks.
Despite a ray of hope emerging from the meeting of Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard G Olson and China’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Deng Xijun the Taliban have rightly called it a futile, one sided affairs. The Taliban have objected to the presence of the Afghan government and the USA for being on the negotiation table.
Taliban are of the view that these meeting would not produce any results. According to media reports the Taliban want an end to interference from the USA. The Taliban are critical of the presence of US troops in the country and want them to leave which Ghani cannot afford.
Member-countries of the Heart of Asia Process on the sidelines of the conference on Afghanistan, hosted by Pakistan in December last year, formed the Quadrilateral Group to strive to steer out Afghanistan from the decades of violence and establish peace through peaceful means.
Taliban representatives have been notably absent in all the three meetings and analysts caution that any substantive talks are still a long way off.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets in Afghanistan as the QCG peace process gains momentum. They hope to conquer as much territory as possible for improving their negotiating powers with the Kabul government – indicating a worsening of the security situation.
Government representatives from Pakistan, USA, China and Kabul are trying hard to persuade the Taliban to discuss a new peace proposal to end the internecine war in Afghanistan.
The players have finally come to a bitter conclusion that there can be no peace in the region unless the Taliban are given their due share in the Afghan government. With the closure of foreign military bases and inability of the Afghan forces to counter Taliban attacks the regional players are now trying hard to negotiate with them.
 Since the departure of the coalition of US and NATO Troops ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) from Afghanistan the Taliban have hit hard and challenged the writ of the Afghan government compelling the Pakistani government to take action on its side of the border to eliminate the non cooperating Taliban. The Zarb-e-Azab has not yet succeeded in wiping the Taliban terror dens but have reduce their areas of influence.
General Raheel Sharif the army chief has been active in engaging and molding the Ashraf Ghani government, giving rise to the resignation of his intelligence chief Ramatullah Nabil who opposed his pro-Pakistan policies. The army chief was pro-active in curtailing the Indians influence who were investing heavily in the country and wanted a share of influence Pakistan’s backyard.
Earlier during the first QCG meeting Sartaj Aziz the PM’s foreign affairs advisor Aziz during the opening session of the quadrilateral group meeting had tried to entice the Taliban with the statement that the talks could commence without any precondition. The Taliban responded with a hard hitting statement by attacking students at the Baccha Khan University in Charssada. The same Taliban had earlier attacked and aroused international condemnation for conducting a ruthless massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar which resulted in the death of 154 people 135 of whom were students.
 The message relayed to the public was that those willing to negotiate would be welcomed while the intransigent group would be dealt with by military force. The Taliban as we see have shown no flexibility in not carrying out their signature deeds. Attacking military, air force, naval bases including civilians mostly shia- the Taliban show no flexibility or interest in holding peace talks.
Over a decade their rule of the game remained unchanged – strike targets in Kabul and Pakistan relentlessly. Afghans and defence analyst criticize the early departure of the US troops which resulted in the closure of 700 bases and emboldened the terrorist groups to strike targets with impunity and without remorse.
Even after the school and university massacre Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president prefers calling the Taliban his “political opponents”.
The former terrorists, now “political opponents” have recently responded with a hard list of demands which included the lifting of UN-led sanctions and the release of prisoners.
Following their informal meeting with Afghan government officials in Doha, Qatar, Taliban spokespeople have made it clear they want to be removed from the UN blacklist. The UN sanctions that are in effect include assets freeze and travel bans.
International efforts are under way to offer some form of legitimacy to the Taliban office based in Qatar. The Afghan government had always protested against the existence of the Taliban overseas office and rejected its demands for negotiations as unacceptable.

Rumors Fly Over Turkish/Saudi Intentions In Syria

Senior Fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies Boris Dolgov told Radio Sputnik that the prospect of Turkey’s military invasion in Syria is “very high.”

The current activity at the Turkish-Syrian border suggests that Turkey is preparing to invade Syria, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Thursday.For its part, the Saudi Arabian authorities have declared readiness to take part in a ground operation in Syria. According to the Minister of Defense of the Kingdom Advisor Gen. Ahmed Asiri, in the Syrian territory, the Saudi military will fight only with Daesh.

Senior Fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies Boris Dolgov told Radio Sputnik that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have always supported radical Islamists in Syria who are fighting in the Syrian territory against the government army and President Bashar Assad.

“Their goal is to bring to power Sunni forces in Syria. This aim remains in politics of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In addition, Turkey has an aim of annexing the territory in Syria, home to the Turkmen, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire once.”

Dolgov further said, “There is also the financial interests of Turkey which is the oil business captured by Daesh. This is also the reason as to why the Turkish leadership right now is supporting radical Islamists,” the expert told Sputnik.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry provided the international community with irrefutable video evidence of Turkish self-propelled artillery units shelling Syrian settlements in the northern part of Latakia province.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov pointed out that the Russian Defense Ministry has intensified all types of surveillance activity in the Middle East.

“So if someone in Ankara thinks that cancelling a Russian observation flight would help conceal something, that is just the mark of an amateur,” Konashenkov said.

Boris Dolgov stressing this point said that, “I believe that Turkey’s likelihood of military intervention in Syria is very high. The Turkish leadership has long been saying that the Turkish troops need to protect Syrian civilians. Added to this statement there are allegations suggesting that Russia has bombed civilian objects, which is absolute nonsense. But it can be a pretext for an invasion,” the expert concluded.

Egypt Floods Gaza Tunnels For Israel, Hamas Executes Man In Charge of Tunnels

[Egypt flooded Gaza tunnels at Israel’s request: minister]

Hamas armed branch executes one of its own members

Middle East Online

Al-Qassam Brigades execute one of their members, with sources familiar with case calling him senior official accused of spying for Israel.

Now, ‘spies’ are among their ranks

GAZA CITY (Palestinian Territories) – The armed wing of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, said Sunday it had executed one of its members, with sources familiar with the case calling him a senior official accused of spying for Israel.

“The Al-Qassam Brigades announce that the death penalty pronounced against its member Mahmud Eshtawi has been applied today at 1600 hours,” Hamas’s armed branch said in a statement.

Executions have previously been carried out in the Gaza Strip, including in public squares in the Palestinian territory, but it appeared to be the first time Al-Qassam itself had sentenced one of its own through a court martial and executed him.

The statement did not provide details on the accusations against him other than to say that “the Brigades’ military and Islamic judicial committee issued the sentence because he violated rules and ethics.”

Eshtawi’s duties included overseeing tunnels that have previously been used to store weapons and carry out attacks against Israel, the sources said.

According to the sources, he was in charge of a large unit and was previously a close associate of Mohammed Deif, the Al-Qassam chief who has been a frequent target of Israeli assassination attempts.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said in late December that nine death sentences had been issued in the Gaza Strip in 2015 and two in the occupied West Bank.

Since the start of 2016, four Gazans have been handed death sentences after being accused of spying for Israel.

The Gaza Strip has seen three wars with Israel since 2008.

Pak Taliban and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) Wage War Against Chinese Development

[Pak Army Serving-Up Balochistan For China]

Q BOMB 206016Bodies are seen at the site of a suicide attack in Quetta, Pakistan, on February 6, 2016. At least nince people were killed and several others wounded in the suicide attack near the premises of the heavily guarded Quetta district courts on Saturday.


At least nine people were killed and 35 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a military convoy in Pakistan’s western city of Quetta on Saturday, police and hospital officials said.

QUETTA, Pakistan: At least nine people were killed and 35 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a military convoy in Pakistan’s western city of Quetta on Saturday, police and hospital officials said.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khurasani told Reuters that the group, also known as the TTP, was responsible for the attack in the capital of the province of Baluchistan.

chin pak ec corridorThe bombing was the latest in a region which is home to the planned route of a US$46 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor.

“The suicide bomber was riding a bicycle close to a Frontier Corps vehicle,” said senior police official Imtiaz Shah, referring to the branch of Pakistan’s paramilitary forces targeted in the attack.

At least three Frontier Corps personnel were killed and 15 were injured in the attack that occurred in the city centre in the late afternoon, Frontier Corps spokesman Khan Wasey said.

A 12-year-old girl was also among the dead, said Ajab Khan, a doctor at the city’s Civil Hospital, where the casualties were taken.

Rich in resources, Baluchistan is at the heart of the multi-billion-dollar energy and infrastructure projects which China and Pakistan are planning along a corridor stretching from the Arabian Sea to China’s Xinjiang region.

The province, the poorest and least developed in Pakistan, has seen nearly a decade of separatist violence against the government and non-Baluch ethnic groups.

Baluch activists and human rights groups claim the military has carried out a campaign of kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killing of suspected separatists, and a security crackdown has severely limited freedom of movement.

In January, five Pakistani soldiers and two coast guard members were killed in separate attacks in the province, and a suicide bomber killed at least 15 people outside a polio eradication centre in Quetta.

(Reporting by Gul Yousufzai; Additional reporting by Asad Hashim in Islamabad and Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan; Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

Pak Army Serving-Up Balochistan For China

[SEE:  Balochistan, Like Kurdestan, Another “Erased” Nation]

Mega-port will bring five-star hotels and Chinese access to Arabian Sea, as residents in conflict-torn province contend with lack of water and food

gwadar portA Pakistani paramilitary soldier stands guard near the Beijing-funded Gwadar ‘mega-port’. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Jon Boone and Kiyya Baloch in Gwadar


Gwadar is poor. When a house was recently burgled in the fishing settlement on Pakistan’s desert coast, the only items stolen were cans of fresh water – a staple that has soared in value since reservoirs dried up. It lies in Balochistan, a province in the grip of a long-running separatist insurgency and Pakistan’s most neglected.

Yet local officials dream of a future where Gwadar becomes a second Shenzhen, the Chinese trade hub bordering Hong Kong. Visitors are told that with Chinese investment the small settlement will become a major node of world commerce boasting car factories, Pakistan’s biggest airport and a string of five-star resort hotels along Gwadar’s sparkling seafront.

But residents are aghast, and not just because the fishing community, long settled on the neck of the peninsula, will be moved to new harbours up to 40km away.

“This is all being done for China, not the people,” said Elahi Bakhsh, a fisherman bewildered by the plans to turn Gwadar into China’s deepwater access point to the Arabian Sea.

Like others he complains of chronic underdevelopment in a district judged food insecure by the UN in 2009 and a town with only rudimentary health and education services. Bakhsh had not had enough water to wash his clothes in weeks. He and five of his colleagues turned down an offer of tea – the mandatory accompaniment to any meeting in Pakistan – in favour of bottles of mineral water.
Balochistan: Pakistan’s information black hole
Read more

“The whole area has been captured by the government with local people pushed aside,” he said.

If all goes to plan, the existing 80,000 population will be joined by another 2 million people over the next 20 years, including 20,000 Chinese residents, according to an official at the Gwadar Development Authority.

It was Dubai, not Shenzhen, that was being touted as the model for Gwadar’s future 10 years ago. But that initiative only succeeded in ruining countless property speculators. Officials say things are different this time because of the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), a project announced last year with pledges from Beijing of $46bn (£32bn) in investment loans.

It will help pay for the expansion of Gwadar’s currently unused deepwater port and the construction of a road network the exact route of which is subject to hot inter-provincial controversy that will connect the port to the Chinese border 1,800km to the north amid Himalayan peaks.

Pakistan hopes the corridor will turn the country into a critical land route for the world’s second-biggest economy. In theory exporters in Xinjiang will have a much shorter journey to the Arabian Sea and international markets than via China’s eastern ports.

In practice sceptics wonder whether trucking goods over one of the world’s highest mountain ranges will ever be cheaper than existing sea routes. They suspect China is more interested in Gwadar as a potential naval base near the oil supplies of the Gulf.

Ensuring security on long stretches of road in a province wracked by a persistent, low-level insurgency is the biggest challenge to CPEC. Fear of being outnumbered by outsiders from the rest of Pakistan is fuelling a violent rebellion in Balochistan.

chin pak ec corridorThe Pakistan-China economic corridor is a particular target because separatists see it as a demographic threat to the native Baloch, who are thought to make up just over half of the 8 million people living in the province.

“The corridor passes through what is currently the heart of the insurgency,” says Kaiser Bengali, an economic adviser to Balochistan’s chief minister. He said the notion that the two special brigades formed by the army will be enough to protect road traffic was “laughable”.

“If every convoy of trucks has to be accompanied by half a dozen tanks, armoured carriers and helicopters the cost is going to be exorbitant,” he said.

All five rebellions that have hit the province since 1947 were underpinned by Baloch claims that Islamabad exploits the province’s extensive gas and mineral riches for the benefit of the country’s ruling establishment in Punjab.

Pakistan says arch-enemy India also stirs up trouble. “Foreign adversaries have been more than eager to exploit any opportunity to destabilise Pakistan by harbouring, training and funding dissidents and militants”, said army chief General Raheel Sharif, who joined the prime minister in Balochistan on Wednesday for the inauguration of a section of CPEC highway.

The current rebellion was triggered by the rape of a female doctor by a military officer in 2005. The year before a car bomb killed three Chinese engineers in Gwadar.
Pakistan naval guards stand near the wreckage of the 2004 car bomb that killed three Chinese engineers in Gwadar

Pakistan naval guards stand near the wreckage of the 2004 car bomb that killed three Chinese engineers in Gwadar
Pakistan naval guards stand near the wreckage of the 2004 car bomb that killed three Chinese engineers in Gwadar. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese visitors say they remain worried about security despite the elaborate efforts to keep them safe. Investors and officials from Beijing only move about Gwadar accompanied by military vehicles and only after all the roads have been cleared of traffic. The road is picketed with policemen at 50-metre intervals.

“For the locals it’s like being a prisoner in your own town,” said Shamshad Ahmed a retired army officer who has been coming to the town for years as part of his work at the Pearl Continental, Gwadar’s only five-star hotel that recently reopened after being mothballed for years. “Of course they are not happy about their freedom being taken away,” he said.

The sense of containment will only increase with plans to build a security fence that will completely surround the town as the port is developed. “Everyone coming in will have to show a residency pass so we can keep a record of who lives in Gwadar,” police inspector Chakar Khan explained.

Officials in Gwadar say the main town is safe, even if trouble remains in outlying areas. On 9 January two Pakistan coast guard officials were killed and three injured by a roadside bomb in the district.

Strenuous efforts have been made to secure the thinly populated but vast province, roughly the size of Germany. The military campaign to weaken a scrappy and deeply divided insurgency has had some success and in 2015 separatist violence fell 36% to 194 attacks, according to a tally of press reports by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.

But critics say the army has disastrously mishandled the situation with improved security won at the cost of deepening alienation among the Baloch. Former moderates have been driven into the hands of increasingly intransigent separatists, detractors say.

Road users complain of routine humiliations at checkpoints where busloads of passengers can be detained for hours.

It is the issue of “missing persons” that has caused most anger. Intelligence agents, often accompanied by the paramilitary Frontier Corps, are accused of snatching suspected militants who “disappear” into secret detention sites. Many turn up dead in deserted areas, their dumped bodies often showing signs of torture.

gwadar port aerialAn aerial view of Gwadar port in 2014. Photograph: Alamy

Last year the provincial government revealed the bodies of 800 people linked to the insurgency were recovered between 2011 and 2014. It also estimated 950 people are still missing, although some claims go as high as 14,000 according to a 2013 report by a UN fact-finding team.

Where previous rebellions were led by tribal chieftains in northern Balochistan, who were amenable to cutting deals with the state, the current uprising is dominated by the non-tribal middle-class in Makran, the belt stretching some 200km inland from Gwadar.

And unlike in the past, rebels have targeted non-Baloch civilians. Human rights groups say more than 1,000 such “settlers” have been killed since 2006, including a teacher at a school where pupils were forced to sing the Pakistani national anthem.

Civilians from Makran complain of being caught between the insurgents and the Frontier Corps, who are fighting where the infrastructure for the China-Pakistan corridor is to be built.

“Fighting erupted when work started on the road and we had to flee our homes,” said Shahab Baloch, a shopkeeper from Hoshab who like many others was forced to find safety in a larger town. “People are living in miserable conditions but are too afraid to go back.”

In a sign of the rebels’ enduring local influence just 4% of voters turned out for a provincial assembly by-election in Makran on 31 December after insurgents warned people to stay away from the polls. A brother of one candidate was kidnapped while another had his house burned down.

Those who remain engaged in electoral politics have hardened their positions. Akthar Mengal, leader of the Balochistan National party (BNP) and a former chief minister of the province, said Pakistan’s leaders “look at us worse than slaves”.

“In their mind we are not a province of this country, we are a colony,” he said. “In the name of development they want to turn us into a minority in our own land.”

Efforts by the provincial government to negotiate a political solution with separatist leaders, some of whom are living in self-exile in Europe, are under way. But civilian politicians say they are powerless to restrain the military’s counter-insurgency operations.

gwadar master plan

Moderate Baloch leaders meanwhile say any deal with the insurgents must include constitutional protections for indigenous people, particularly in Gwadar where many residents feel more attachment to Oman, which owned the peninsula until 1958. Aziz Baloch, a BNP party official in Gwadar, said a system of work and residency permits should be established so outsiders would be barred from voting in elections.

Some hope the jobs and economic activity created by CPEC will weaken support for the separatists. Many locals are sceptical however, pointing out that people from Balochistan, with its tiny share of the national population, are entitled to only 6% of government jobs and are rarely qualified for the best ones.

A newspaper advert for jobs last March in Gwadar’s fisheries department offered senior, technical positions to Pakistanis from Punjab and only menial roles such as cleaners and guards to locals.

“The suspicion is that all the Baloch will get from CPEC is the right to repair punctures on Chinese tires,” said Bengali, the economic adviser.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, struck a conciliatory tone in December at a ceremony to inaugurate a section of CPEC. He said Balochistan must have “the first right over all resources which have been explored in the province”.

But he also announced an upgrade for an existing highway running along the sparsely populated desert coast.

It would allow Chinese trucks to head east towards Karachi before going northwards on secure roads in other provinces, bypassing much of troublesome Balochistan entirely.